One of my biggest challenges when I started to build a life as a single parent was to not compare myself with two parent families. They appeared to do things smoothly, effortlessly, and happily. I struggled with everything—parenting skills, work, conflict with my ex, communicating with well-intentioned family, guilt that the nursery spent more waking hours with my daughter than I did, self confidence (big time!), dating again, my finances (I was made redundant when my daughter was six months old) and just overall overwhelm.
Six years on I’ve learned that much of the change that’s occurred around those areas has derived from developing a new mindset that then prompts a new reality. Here’s a top five list of what I’ve learned is true for me. I hope it will be valuable to you too.
1. I’m a Great Parent
I read somewhere that children reference an average of five adults to be significant in their lives to support them in developing from childhood to adulthood (might include parents, aunts, uncles, friend’s parent, teachers, tutors, sport coaches, or grandparents). That being the case, our children will seek greater counsel outside our homes than any one parent or two parent family would naturally supply. Our children are not disadvantaged by living in a one parent family so long as we equip them with the words and the confidence to understand their life change and to communicate it to themselves and their peer group. And love—expressed verbally, physically, emotionally and practically—is key.
2. I’m Infinitely Resourceful
In its most simplistic terms I’ve realized that when I’m clear about something there is always a way to make that thing happen. I’ve tested this in the areas of childcare, communicating with my ex, finances, and dating again. So much of this lesson has come down to the acknowledgement that:
- Confidence is key. It does mean I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone on many occasions. And I still do this (sometimes daily!). It’s how we grow!
- There’s a spiritual element to life. My suggestion is to learn about it, access it, and use it (read Return to Love by Marianne Williamson if you’re looking for a neutral starting point).
3. I Become What I Think About
I’ve been practicing keeping my mind in a supremely positive place over the last year. I’m choosing not to watch the news, not to read the newspapers, not to listen to gossip, to contribute only to positive conversations, to acknowledge my successes, to be honest about where I can improve and to actively hold a picture in my head of what success looks like for me.
If your mind is focused on a positive, bright, hopeful, exciting vision, that’s the direction your life will head in. Like anything else though keeping our mind in this place is a skill set. So it’s worth practicing and improving this talent on a daily basis. Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t … you’re right.” I like to fill my head with the “I can” part and go from there!
4. I Commit to Lifelong Learning
When I look back to my early single parenting years they were hugely more challenging than I find the elements of my life these days. It’s not that I do less now (on the contrary), it’s that I’ve invested quality time in learning from others, reading books, going to seminars, recognizing my own style of working and committing to have my life and my family’s life move forward with whatever resources we’re equipped with.
New learning has allowed me to recognize my daughter’s needs ahead of time; feel confident about my role as a working mother; keep calm (mostly) when the pressure builds; ask for help more; manage my diary better; recognize that the universe is on my side; grow my business; get more comfortable with risk; celebrate more openly; be more sensitive to my ex’s expectations; be less judgmental; frame all situations for the positive … uh, so much learning. It’s an ongoing, lifelong journey and open mindedness is a choice.
5. Change Is Good
I’m learning that to hold back change is like asking the tide not to come in. Change is part of the design of nature. We are born to dream, to ponder on what ‘more’ would look like. To watch our children grow physically while we as adults continue to develop intellectually, emotionally and spiritually to support ourselves and them. Embracing change allows us to tap into parts of our character that were designed to be utilized over time. Like all personal evolution, it requires boldness and encouragement. That’s what successful single parenting is here to provide.
If you want tomorrow to be different from today, you must do something differently. Create order in a part of your house that needs it; change the tone you use with your children; decide to apply for that new job; decide to put down a deposit on that new house; join a new club; call a friend that you miss; go dating (eek!); book a holiday. Make your life extraordinary one day at a time. Starting today!